Most of the province of Alberta (if not the entire country of Canada) has expected the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League to earn an easy 1st round sweep of the Edmonton Oil Kings in the best-of-seven series in the CHL playoffs. They are, after all, the No. 1 seed and the most dominant team in Canadian junior hockey this season.
And as it stands right now, they are up 3-0 against the Oil Kings and look to close out the series tonight in Edmonton... That is, if they can outlast goalie Torrie Jung one more time.
Jung, the Lightning's 7th round pick in 2007, has been a force all unto himself during this playoff series: He's faced 37, 56 and 45 shots in games one, two and three respectively and chalked up 32, 54 and 41 saves in those efforts.
The Calgary Herald compared the Hitmen's relentless assault on Jung to French peasants, storming the Bastille in July of 1789. The story goes on to say:
But it didn't seem fair or just, somehow, when Car-son McMillan nimbly deflected a Paul Postma shot down, the puck skipping off the ice and ricocheting past the screened, startled goaltender at 8:04 of overtime.
In fact, it seemed downright cruel.
Jung himself was owed a far happier fate.
Knowing how bitter the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton is in general and not just hockey, I'd never expect that kind of praise heeped on The Enemy after an overtime win. But Torrie Jung proved to be the exception to the rule after his show-stopping effort in game two.
The same type of praise is lumped on him in the Calgary Sun as well, witht he paper pubicly lamenting the fact that Jung had already been drafted by an NHL team.
Of course, a player's stats do not start with the playoffs. Jung played in 48 games this season and notched a 2.56 Goals Against Average with .915 save percentage. His 20-20 record reflects the record of a team that just inched into the playoffs. And while the Western Hockey League is no NHL, his GAA/Save Percentage puts him in statistical territory comparable to the Bolts injured starter, Mike Smith.
Riku Helenius is supposed to be the next big thing with the Bolts - the netminder of the future and a top draft pick (2006) while Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna hold down the fort in Tampa at current, serving admirably in the wake of the Lightning's injury pleagued season. With Smith, Helenius, Ramo and McKenna rounded out by the emergence of Jung, a pleasant complication in netminding for the Lightning may be brewing for next season and beyond.